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  Feature Name: Two-dimensional map in the Virtual Solar System (VSS)
Author: VSS team

Category: Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Models, Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Simulations, Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Visual Explanations (2D+3D), Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Virual Reality, Inquiry Tools: Open-ended inquiry, Inquiry Tools: Guided inquiry, Educational Games

Subject: Physical sciences

Kind: Element/Applet

 Elementary School
 Middle School
 High School
 Higher Education
 Teachers & Principals


Software URL: Virtual Solar System (VSS)

Created by: Dr. Yoav Yair, Dr. Rachel Mintz, Shay Litvak The Center of Education Technology (CET) and Tel-Aviv University’s Science and Technology Education Center (SATEC), in Tel-Aviv, ISRAEL.

Reference URL

This Feature is connected to (5) Principles
  • Enable virtual navigation for exploring complex physical systems
  • Provide dynamic visual aids for the perception of 3D phenomena
  • Reduce visual complexity to help learners recognize salient information
  • Use multiple representations
  • Enable manipulation of factors in models and simulation
    Feature in Visual Map
    The two-dimensional map of the solar system is similar to the known traditional map. The map is dynamic, and it is changed continuously according to the three-dimensional picture. The user’s location and observation point of view, with respect to the viewed object and to the entire solar system, is marked on the map by a dynamic camera icon. The user can navigate in the virtual environment through the two-dimensional map. This way the map helps the user to orient and navigate in the virtual reality, and the learning may be easier. It also helps overcome the sense of bewilderment that is sometimes caused by viewing an unfamiliar rotation of a planet (such as the planet Uranus).
    The user can choose whether or not to have the map on the screen.
    (Gazit, Yair & Chen, under review; Yair, Mintz & Litvak, 2001)
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    The Virtual Solar System is a non-immersive 3D virtual environment.
    The user flies in the solar system by the computer mouse as a spaceship.
    there are 4 modes of observation, within each one the user can change his/her point of view, zoom in or out and fly around the object in any direction.

    The user has to project himself into this “reality” and to adopt the different points of view, which is not an easy cognitive task, especially for young users. The goal of the 2D map (see figure) is to reduce the lose of orientation and “vertigo” feeling, which are a usual outcome of navigation in virtual environments.
    (Gazit & Chen, 2003; Gazit, Chen & Yair, under review; Yair, Mintz & Litvak, 2001)
    Context of Use:
    Some of the students participated in the study (see references 2 and 3) developed alternative misconceptions during the interaction.
    The emergence of the alternative concepts may be reduced or prevented by instruction and appropriate activities and scaffolds. The VSS contains structured inquiries that focus the user on specific aspects and ask him guided questions. (Detailed description appears in the feature “Combined Structured inquiries in the VSS”).
    (Gazit, Yair & Chen, under review)
    Field-based Evidence:
    A case-study research was conducted with ten 10th grade volunteered students, in order to study their learning process during a real-time interaction with the VSS, and to analyze the development of their understanding of basic astronomical phenomena and of possible alternative concepts.

    In this study, one of the students used the two-dimensional map alternately to collect additional global visual information on the spatial configuration of the planets. (Gazit & Chen, 2003)

    For additional results see references 2 and 3.
    Gazit, E. (2004). The gain and pain in taking the pilot seat: Interaction dynamics within virtual learning environments. The 3d International Symposium on VR & Rehabilitation, The Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science, University of Haifa, Israel, 17-18 March 2004.

    Gazit, E. & Chen, D. (2003). Using the Observer to analyze learning in virtual worlds. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 35(3), 400-407.

    Gazit, E., Chen, D. & Yair, Y. (under review). Emerging Conceptual Understanding of Complex Astronomical Phenomena by Using a Virtual Solar System (VSS). The Journal of Science Education and Technology.

    Gazit, E., Chen, D., & Yair, Y. (2004). Using a virtual solar system to develop a conceptual understanding of basic astronomical phenomena. In: Cantoni, L., & McLoughlin, C. (Eds.). Proceedings of ED-Media 2004 World conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. (p. 4344-4349). Lugano: Switzerland, June 21-26, 2004.

    Yair, Y., Mintz, r. & Litvak, S. (2001). 3D-virtual reality in science education: An
    implication for astronomy teaching. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 20(3(), 293-305.

    Yair, Y., Schur, Y. & Mintz Rachel. (2003). A “Thinking Journey” to the Planets Using Scientific Visualization Technologies: Implications to Astronomy Education.
    Journal of Science Education and technology, 12(1), 43-49.

    Image:(Click to enlarge)